Newspaper article International New York Times

Entertaining Fans and Detractors Alike ; Dodgers' Puig Demands Attention with His Outs, His Hits and His Gaffes

Newspaper article International New York Times

Entertaining Fans and Detractors Alike ; Dodgers' Puig Demands Attention with His Outs, His Hits and His Gaffes

Article excerpt

The Dodgers' Yasiel Puig has fascinated fans with his hitting, mental gaffes, benchings and shadowy defection from Cuba.

He hears boos at the opposing team's stadium from the moment he walks out of the on-deck circle. The fans anticipate his at-bat, and they jeer him with such rancor that it is hard to believe he has not yet been in the major leagues for an entire year.

Yasiel Puig, an outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, made his major league debut last June 3, but he has already made enough headlines to last a career. Those who love him appreciate the aggressive way he plays. Those who do not dislike his celebratory, flamboyant style. Either way, everyone seems fascinated by him. Fans may not like Puig, but they will stop and watch whatever he does.

A true five-tool player, Puig, 23, entered Thursday leading the Dodgers with a .333 batting average and was second in the major leagues with a 1.037 on-base plus slugging percentage. He is one of baseball's most exciting players.

"I'm not sure why I'm the one who gets the focus for playing that way," Puig said, speaking in Spanish. "Maybe because the other people who play that way have more years playing here. Maybe it's that I'm only starting my career here in the big leagues.

"But that's not going to hold me back from playing that way. Ever since I was a little boy, I enjoyed playing that way. That's how I get motivated. When I'm energized, good things happen for me. I hate being passive because it doesn't help me at all."

Puig signed a $42 million contract with the Dodgers two years ago after defecting from Cuba on a small boat. Everything he does demands attention: his outs; his hits; his home runs, which are often followed by bat flips; his overthrows of cutoff men; his running gaffes; and, most recently, the details of his defection from Cuba.

He has quarreled with teammates, coaches, opposing players and members of the news media. He has been benched for arriving late to the clubhouse and for appearing uninterested in the outfield.

In December, he was arrested in Florida for driving 110 miles per hour. Charges of reckless driving were later dropped.

Puig continually provides ammunition for his fans and his detractors.

On Tuesday at the New York Mets, Puig, playing right field, forgot the number of outs. After catching David Wright's fly to end the third inning, he unleashed a throw to third base that caught Juan Uribe by surprise. On his way to the dugout, Puig playfully hugged Uribe, who gave him a serious look. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez waited for Puig at the top of the dugout to give him a hard time.

Aside from his mental stumble, Puig singled twice, doubled, walked, was hit by a pitch, scored two runs and drove in a run in the Dodgers' 9-4 win. He missed hitting a home run by a few feet in the fifth inning. …

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